The Colour Theory of Web Design

Elements of Colour Theory

The World Wide Web is steered by its visual communication and ability to draw people in with images, videos, and other optical components. Similarly, the colours used in any work of art can greatly affect the impact the work has on the viewer. By putting these two points together, it’s easy to see that the colour palette used on the web is vital in effective visual communication with the viewer. So how can you use colour effectively to help your site?

Flat colours can vary greatly depending on their properties. You can make countless shades of red, just by tweaking the value and saturation levels of the red you use. The value of a colour is the degree of lightness or darkness of your flat colour. You can use the value levels of two colours against one another to create contrast, a visually pleasing colour phenomenon. The saturation of a colour is the amount of white or black mixed in, changing the strength of the colour. In the following image, you can see that the blue becomes less of a true blue the more white is added.


Colours placed against other colours can greatly affect the way they are perceived. For example, in the following image, all the middle squares of each row are the same, yet they look different when placed inside a coloured box.


Using Colour Theory in Web Design

The value of the colour scheme of your site can help set the overall mood. By using a low key colour palette, where the dominant is dark, your site will look serious, or even gloomy. If you use a lighter, high colour scheme, it may look for more soft and dreamy. Follow these tips to create a colour scheme that fits the feel of your site.

  • Sober and Serious: Use de-saturated colours and low key colour scheme. Use browns and a limited palette for the best and cleanest look.
  • Dynamic and Exciting: High contrast, high key colour palette. Fully saturated colours, with a splattering of both light and dark colours spread out across the page.
  • Soft and Dreamy: High key palette, colours mixed with whites and light greys. Soft colours.
  • Professional and Pure: Large areas of white with small accents of pure, high contrast colour.

You can create many great colour palettes that help capture the feel of your business by playing around with value, saturation, and colour grouping. For help creating a palette, you can check out sites such as https://www.toptal.com/designers/colourcode, and https://color.adobe.com/.

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